#RedSox’ Sixth-Ranked Prospect Bobby Dalbec Homers in First at Bat of Spring Training

The Red Sox opened up exhibition play on Friday with a 6-0 win over the Northeastern Huskies baseball team.

Prospect Bobby Dalbec, ranked sixth in the Red Sox’ system by MLB Pipeline, got the scoring started for Boston with a second inning solo blast to dead center off of Northeastern’s David Stiehl.

Jagger Rusconi and Tzu-Wei Lin collected a pair of RBI in the bottom half of the third, while Tate Matheny and Cole Sturgeon combined to do the same in the fourth.

Tyler Dearden, a 29th round selection in 2017, wrapped up the scoring for Boston in the sixth by driving in Joseph Monge on a two out RBI triple.

Blake Swihart caught the first four innings of this contest. He went hitless in two plate appearances.

On the pitching side of things, prospect Mike Shawaryn got the starting nod for the Red Sox. The former University of Maryland product limited Northeastern to just one hit while striking out a pair in two scoreless innings of work.

From there, Darwinzon Hernandez, Domingo Tapia, and Josh Taylor combined for two hits, one walk, and six strikeouts over five shutout frames.

Hernandez, who accounted for three of those strikeouts in two innings, is ranked as the seventh best prospect in the Red Sox’ system.

When asked about Dalbec’s homer, Red Sox manager Alex Cora said, “That was pretty good. Straight center. Yeah. That’s pretty good.”

The 23-year-old Dalbec slashed .257/.361/.558 with 32 home runs and 109 RBI in 129 games between High A Salem and Double A Portland last season.

Dalbec and Red Sox top prospect Michael Chavis, who went 0-for-1 on Friday, should both be interesting to watch over the course of the spring.

Next up for Boston is the Grapefruit League opener against the New York Yankees on Saturday at JetBlue Park.

Per MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo, the Red Sox will start Rafael Devers at designated hitter, Sandy Leon at catcher, Bryce Brentz, Gorkys Hernandez, and Rusney Castillo in the outfield, Tzu-Wei Lin at second base, Josh Ockimey at first base, and CJ Chatham at short stop.

Josh Smith, Marcus Walden, Travis Lakins, and Erasmo Ramirez are all expected to pitch as well, although a starter has yet to be named.

First pitch against New York on Saturday is scheduled for 1:05 PM ET.

 

#RedSox Catcher Christian Vazquez Considered ‘Someone Teams Could Make a Run at’ in Trade Talks

In his weekly column for The Boston Globe, Nick Cafardo pointed out that teams looking for a backstop may have interest in the Red Sox’ Christian Vazquez now that JT Realmuto is off the board and a Philadelphia Phillie.

Teams Cafardo listed as potential Vazquez suitors were also teams that missed out on Realmuto,  including the Braves, Dodgers, Padres, and Reds.

Now, Vazquez and Realmuto aren’t exactly on the same level in terms of what they bring to the table both at and behind the plate, but Vazquez’s defensive prowess is no joke.

It’s been made pretty much abundantly clear that the Red Sox aren’t planning on carrying three catchers on their 25-man roster in 2019, and with Vazquez due to make $2.85 million, the most of any Boston catcher, this coming season, moving on makes sense, especially when you consider what Leon and Swihart can still provide.

Fresh off signing a three-year contract extension last spring training, the 28-year-old struggled immensely at the plate, slashing a career-worst .207/.257/.283 with three home runs and 16 RBI in just 80 games played in 2018. He also missed a significant amount of time with a fifth finger fracture in his right hand.

To add to the conversation, Red Sox manager Alex Cora said Saturday that he feels comfortable with the minor league depth the club has at catcher with this inevitable trade coming, which starts with ex-Rangers backstop Juan Centeno, who Boston signed to a minor league deal last November.

“We’re good,” Cora said. “I had Juan in Houston in 2017. He was part of the playoff roster. So I’m comfortable.”

All three of Centeno, Cora, and Vazquez are natives of Puerto Rico for what it’s worth.

Although Vazquez’s future with the Red Sox is cloudy at this point in time, the same can certainly be said for Blake Swihart and Sandy Leon. The competition between the three of them should really be something to watch these next few weeks.

As for what Dave Dombrowski would want in return for one of the three backstops available via trade, I would venture to say it’s either going to be a middle innings reliever or back-end starter. The possibility that the Red Sox acquire prospects to improve their farm system, like Cafardo says above, is there as well.

Dustin Pedroia Would Not Have Undergone Knee Surgery in 2017 If He Knew What He Knows Now.

When speaking with reporters at JetBlue Park on Friday, Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia revealed that if he knew what he does now, he would not have opted to have surgery done on his left knee in the 2017 offseason.

No, I wouldn’t have done it,” he said. “I don’t regret doing it, but looking back and knowing what I know now, I wouldn’t have done it.”

Now 35, Pedroia appeared in just three games for Boston this past season following a cartilage restoration procedure on his left knee two October’s ago.

According to The Boston Globe’s Pete Abraham, “the surgery involved grafting cartilage from a cadaver into Pedroia’s knee. He also had microfracture surgery on his tibia at the same time.”

That held the long time infielder out for approximately seven months until he began a rehab stint with Triple A Pawtucket on May 14th.

Less than two weeks later, Pedroia was back up with the Red Sox, batting sixth in a May 26th contest against the Atlanta Braves.

A las, three games and 13 plate appearances into his 2018 season, Pedroia was on the shelf yet again, eventually being placed on the 10-day injured list on June 2nd with left knee inflammation.

In late July, Pedroia went under the knife once more to remove scar tissue from that same knee and has since been rehabbing as spring workouts begin.

It’s been a complicated year-and-a-half for Pedroia, but now the Arizona native is pushing to make Boston’s 2019 Opening Day lineup, and more importantly, bat leadoff, a promise made by Red Sox manager Alex Cora in November.

“I appreciate him doing that,” Pedroia said. “He better not give me too many days hitting leadoff, I might stay there. But I appreciate that. These guys have seen how hard I’ve worked and what I’m trying to get back from. To give me that opportunity would be cool.”

Since making his debut in 2006, Pedroia has played 1,506 games in a Red Sox uniform, good for 11th most in franchise history. He’s under contract through 2021.

#RedSox Reportedly Seeking Rotation Depth in Catcher Trade Talks as Spring Training Begins.

Earlier on Tuesday, the Boston Sports Journal’s Sean McAdam reported that the Boston Red Sox are in search of some starting rotation depth. In order to do this, McAdam reports, the club is making any three of their big league catchers available via trade.

Now, this should not come as that large of a surprise, especially since president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowksi said in January that Boston would like to carry only two catchers on their Opening Day roster this season.

What may be surprising here is that Dombrowksi may be looking to shore up the back-end of the Red Sox starting rotation while the bullpen remains the biggest question mark for this club.

As things stand currently, the Red Sox’ starting five will more than likely consist of Chris Sale, David Price, Nathan Eovaldi, Rick Porcello, and Eduardo Rodriguez in 2019. That’s already one of the better rotations in the American League if everyone stays healthy.

Even without the addition of a trade piece, hurlers such as Brian Johnson, Hector Velazquez, and Steven Wright, when healthy, are more than capable of both pitching out of the bullpen and filling in for a spot start when needed.

So, these rumors are certainly not coming out of nowhere, but when the time comes and one of Blake Swihart, Christian Vazquez, or Sandy Leon is dealt, I, for one, would be surprised if the Red Sox receive a back-end starting pitcher instead of a reliever in return for one of their backstops.

One Burning Question for Each #RedSox Position Group Headed into Spring Training.

The Red Sox are set to kick off their spring workouts this coming week beginning with pitchers and catchers officially reporting to Fenway South in Fort Myers on Tuesday.

The blueprint for attempting to repeat as World Series champions will be created over the next month and a half before the club hits the road for an 11-game west coast road trip to kick off their 2019 campaign.

There are obviously many components involved in this process, so I went ahead and composed a handful of questions pertaining to each Red Sox position group.

Starting pitchers – Will Chris Sale be able to stay healthy for a full season?

Chris Sale dealt with numerous throwing shoulder issues in 2018, limiting him to 27 starts in the regular season and just 15.1 innings pitched in the postseason. Still, the left-hander posted a 2.11 ERA, averaged 13.5 strikeouts per nine innings, and finished top five in American League Cy Young voting for the sixth consecutive year. Not to mention he recorded the final out of the World Series as well.

So, heading into the final year of his contract before hitting free agency, the spotlight will be on Sale to see if he can sustain his typical success over the course of a full season’s workload. Without a doubt, it’s going to be an important season for the Florida native. How he holds up may just dictate who comes out on top in a competitive American League East.

Relief pitchers – Who will serve as the Red Sox’ closer in 2019?

Speaking of pitching, it seems as though Dave Dombrowski is comfortable with the idea of either Matt Barnes or Ryan Brasier serving as the Red Sox’ closer to at least begin the 2019 season.

That in mind, the best relief pitcher on the market who just so happens to have spent the last three seasons in a Red Sox uniform is still available.

Given how this winter’s free agency has panned out, I’ve grown more and more content with the thought of the Red Sox offering Craig Kimbrel a one-year deal for the 2019 season with a value similar to that of the qualifying offer the flame-throwing closer declined in November.

I have a feeling the soon to be 31-year-old Kimbrel would prefer a multi-year deal, but whether it be Barnes, Brasier, or Kimbrel manning the ninth inning for Boston in 2019, the bullpen is surely far from perfect and will more than likely be the club’s weakest link.

Catchers – Which Red Sox catcher, if any, will get traded before Opening Day?

It’s been reported this winter that the Red Sox would prefer not to carry three catchers on their 25-man roster like they did for parts of the 2018 season heading into the 2019 campaign.

Blake Swihart, Christian Vazquez, and Sandy Leon may all be available via trade as Opening Day looms, but who has the best case to be moved?

Swihart, for starters, is the most appealing option in this scenario.

Turning 27 in April, the former top prospect’s big league career has not exactly panned out the way many envisioned it would when he made his debut with Boston in 2015.

This past season, Swihart was limited to just 207 plate appearances in an extremely limted role with the club, slashing .229/.285/.328 with three home runs and 18 RBI over that span.

Still, the Texas native is viewed by many as Boston’s most appealing backstop. Red Sox manager Alex Cora even said, “I want to see Blake catching more. I’ll give him a chance to,” back at the Baseball Winter Meetings in December.

With Leon and Vazquez in the mix as well, the Red Sox’ catching competition will definitely be something worth paying attention to over the course of the spring.

Infielders – Is Rafael Devers poised for a breakout in 2019?

The second year third baseman blew everyone away with his consistently clutch play this past October as he collected nine RBI in all three postseason series combined, with three of those coming on a game-sealing three-run home run off of Justin Verlander in Game 5 of the ALCS.

But in his first full regular season with Boston, the 22-year-old posted a below average 94 OPS+, committed 24 errors manning the hot corner, and even struggled to find playing time at different points throughout the year.

So, heading into the 2019 season, what should be expected of Devers? The pressure will certainly be on with Eduardo Nunez proving to be a capable third baseman when healthy, and the Red Sox have prospects such as Michael Chavis Bobby Dalbec looming in the minor leagues as well.

If this picture is evident of anything…

…then I fully expect the Dominican Republic native to get to somewhere close to 30-35 home runs this year to go along with a slugging percentage north of .490. One of the more interesting breakout candidates to watch for on this club.

Outfielders – Can Jackie Bradley Jr. put together a consistently solid season at the plate?

Finally, Red Sox fans all know Jackie Bradley Jr. is arguably the best defensive center fielder in the American League, that much has proven thanks to his first Rawlings Gold Glove Award in 2018.

What people want to see are consistent at bats from the 28-year-old outfielder.

In the second half of last season, Bradley Jr. slashed .269/.340/.487 with seven home runs and 27 runs driven in. Pretty solid numbers over a span of 58 games.

If the South Carolina native could put those type of numbers together for the length of a full season in 2019, then I think it’s safe to say that the Red Sox will have the best outfield in baseball.

All pictures courtesy of Billie Weiss.

#RedSox React to Patriots Clinching yet Another Super Bowl Berth.

The New England Patriots are heading to their third straight Super Bowl following a 37-31 overtime win over the Kansas City Chiefs in the 2019 AFC Championship Game.

That’s a tremendous accomplishment within itself as the club, led by future Hall of Fame quarterback Tom Brady, will look for their sixth Super Bowl title in franchise history against the Los Angeles Rams in Atlanta on February 3rd.

Following an eventful Winter Weekend at Foxwoods Resort Casino, it seemed as though a good number of Red Sox players and coaches had their eyes on this particular contest, and they sent their congratulations with a familiar theme to the Patriots following the exciting Championship Game win.

The Red Sox already know something about beating a team from Los Angeles on the biggest stage in their sport, and now it’s the Patriots’ turn. What a time to be alive as a sports fan in New England.

STILL HERE.

Dustin Pedroia Is Set to Test His Injured Left Knee Next Week.

Earlier Thursday, The Boston Herald’s Jason Mastrodonato reported that Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia will start running for the first time in months beginning next week to test his surgically repaired left knee.

As Mastrodonato’s tweet reads, Pedroia’s health going into spring training next month is crucial to what the club’s plan at second base will be for the upcoming 2019 season.

Although there is some level of uncertainty surrounding Pedroia, the fact that the Red Sox already have veteran infielders such as Brock Holt and Eduardo Nunez on their 25-man roster is reassuring, but those two did not stop president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowksi from going out and acquiring Ian Kinsler from the Los Angeles Angels last July to seemingly fill in for Pedroia.

On the subject of Kinsler, it’s also worth mentioning that any acquisition Boston makes regarding a second baseman in the coming weeks would more than likely be a lower-level, minor league deal type of signing, as the club simply cannot promise regular playing time until Pedroia’s availability is determined.

Mastrodonato notes that the California native’s rehab will almost certainly take place in his adopted home state of Arizone, rather than at the Red Sox’s facility in Fort Myers, Florida.

When asked about Pedroia’s status at the Baseball Winter Meetings in Las Vegas last month, Dombrowski said, “We’re hopeful that, again, Pedey will be fine. We are looking to add more minor league, guys on six-year renewal option players in general just because we need more depth. That’s a process we’ve been working on for a while.”

Pedroia, who will turn 36 this August, battled inflammation in his left knee throughout 2018 following cartilage restoration surgery in October of 2017.

The four-time All-Star only appeared in three games with Boston this past season, but still made his presence felt as a vocal leader off the field.

#RedSox Reportedly Sign Carson Smith to Minor League Deal.

The Boston Red Sox have brought back RHP Carson Smith on a minor league contract for the 2019 season, per MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo.

Smith, 29, originally elected free agency after being outrighted from Boston’s 40-man roster in November, but in a move that may surprise some, the Texas native is back with the organization.

Originally acquired from the Seattle Mariners along with LHP Roenis Elias in exhange for RHP Jonathan Aro and LHP Wade Miley back in December of 2015, Smith’s initial tenure with the Red Sox was riddled with injuries and several stints on the disabled list.

In parts of three different seasons with Boston, the former eighth round pick posted a 2.65 ERA and 10.3 K/9 over just 29 appearances out of the bullpen and 23.2 total innings pitched.

A recipient of Tommy John surgery in 2016, Smith made his first Opening Day Red Sox roster this past season, where he allowed six runs to cross the plate over 14.1 innings of work before his year ultimately came to an end on May 14th.

After serving up an eighth inning solo home run to the Oakland Athletics’ Khris Davis, the right-hander slammed his glove in the Red Sox dugout of frustration upon retiring the side in the frame, which resulted in the subluxation of his throwing shoulder. An injury that would eventually see Smith placed on the 60-day disabled list and miss the remainder of the season.

To make matters worse, Smith essentially threw his manager Alex Cora under the bus following his embarrassing injury, saying that, “I think fatigue played a factor. My shoulder just couldn’t handle it. I think my shoulder is tired in general just from pitching. I’ve thrown a lot lately and I think my arm was just tired.”

That matter did not sit well with Red Sox fans back in the spring, but with the departure of Joe Kelly to the Los Angeles Dodgers and the probable departure of Craig Kimbrel, the Red Sox have made adding pitching depth a priority this winter.

Already in the month of December alone the club has agreed to minor league deals with RHPs Erasmo Ramirez and Zach Putnam to go along with Sunday’s signing of Smith.

It remains to be seen if this latest deal with Smith includes an invite to major league spring training, but I’m going to go ahead and say it will.

#RedSox Reintroduce Nathan Eovaldi at Baseball Winter Meetings in Las Vegas.

After officially signing a four-year contract with the Boston Red Sox this past Thursday, Nathan Eovaldi was formally reintroduced as a member of the club at the Baseball Winter Meetings in Las Vegas along side Alex Cora and Dave Dombrowski.

Although there was no cap or jersey present for photo opportunities like you usually see at these press conferences, there were still plenty of questions to be asked regarding Eovaldi’s decision to remain with Boston and the Red Sox’s pursuit of the right-hander.

“We’re very thrilled to have Nate back in the organization,” President of Baseball Operations Dave Dombrowski said to open things up, “He did a tremendous job for us last season. Joined us for the regular season and the postseason. For us it was really focused on if we could bring Nate back, and fortunately it worked out.”

Acquired from the Tampa Bay Rays on July 25th, Eovaldi posted a 3.33 ERA while recording 48 strikeouts over 54 total innings pitched and 12 appearances (11 starts) with Boston before reaching his first ever postseason.

There, the Houston native shined with a 1.61 ERA, a .185 BAA, and the performance of a lifetime in Game Three of the 2018 World Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers.

“What he did was amazing,” said Red Sox manager Alex Cora, “Like he was saying, for me personally that was like the biggest moment of the World Series, for him to compete at that level.”

“The conversations in between innings, they were cool. And I remember the last one when I asked him, How are you feeling, he said, Let me finish it. He said it with a lot of conviction. I knew he was good.”

Those six-plus frames of relief from Eovaldi may have ultimately led to Boston’s only loss in this year’s Fall Classic, but it seemingly earned the admiration of Red Sox fans everywhere, and that more than likely played a role in the 28-year-old’s free agency decision.

“The love and support that they were showing me throughout that whole series and especially after that Game Three, gives me goosebumps just thinking about it,” Eovaldi said, “And it’s definitely a special moment and dear to my heart. I want to come back be a part of that.”

Eovaldi also mentioned how he had offers from other clubs to work out of the bullpen and close games, but he did not see himself taking on that role.

“I view myself as a starter, and that’s something I’ve always done my entire career. And I enjoy doing that. So if I had that choice, I still wanted to be a starter.”

The former 11th round pick’s new contract is worth a grand total of $68 million through 2022. He’s had Tommy John surgery twice, and is confident in the Red Sox training staff.

“I feel I can trust my training staff. That’s a big role in me coming over here as well,” Eovaldi said, “And anytime I feel anything, I tell them, and we start the rehab or the treatment for it. And then if it gets worse, then we take time off. But I think we’ve been able to work through a lot of things and stay healthy.”

A two-time recipient of Tommy John surgery, health and durability will remain to be a prevalent factor in Eovaldi’s tenure with the Red Sox, but he has the backing of the club’s coaching staff.

“Four years of Nathan [Eovaldi], that’s going to be great for the organization,” said Alex Cora.

 

#RedSox, Alex Cora Agree to Contract Extension.

One night after finishing as the runner-up in 2018 American League Manager of the Year voting, the Boston Red Sox announced on Wednesday evening that they had come to an agreement with Alex Cora to remain the club’s manager through 2021 with a club option for 2022.

Cora, who formally took over as the 47th manager in Red Sox history last November, initially signed a three-year deal that ran through 2020, but because of a more than impressive debut, the 43-year-old was rewarded with an extension that essentially adds an additional year to that original contract.

In his rookie season as manager, Cora, who played in Boston from 2005 to 2008, led the club to a franchise record 108 regular seasons wins as well as their ninth World Series title following an 11-3 run in the postseason.

A native of Puerto Rico, Cora began the offseason by taking the Commissioner’s Trophy to his hometown of Caguas to celebrate.

A three-time World Series champion, once as a player, once as a coach, and now once as a manager, Cora had the following to say regarding his extension:

“For me, 2018 was not only historic, but it was special as well, both on and off the field. We have a great appreciation for our accomplishments this past year, but now our focus moves forward to the season ahead and defending our World Series title.”

President of Baseball Operations Dave Dombrowski also had this to say as part of the official announcement:

“Alex did a tremendous job for our club all year long and we wanted to reward him for his efforts after an amazing season. We are extremely happy that he will be with us and leading our club on the field.”

Although the numbers have yet to be released, one would have to assume that Cora’s salary got a bump up as part of this extension.

Quotes via MLB.com